[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]
There are just no words for this tragedy. At least 10 people have been shot to death and three were wounded during a racially motivated attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday.
The horrific shooting took place at a Tops Friendly Markets in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Authorities claimed 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron drove from his home in Conklin, New York, to Buffalo, which is several hours away from the city, to launch the attack that he broadcasted on the social media platform Twitch.
According to Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, the white gunman armed with an assault-style rifle left his car at around 2:30 p.m. and shot four people in the parking lot – three of them fatally. When Payton went inside the store, a security guard, Aaron Salter, who was a retired police officer, shot the suspect. But since the shooter wore heavy tactical gear, Gramaglia said the bullets did not affect him. Payton then fired at the security guard and killed him, continuing his way through the market.
When Buffalo police arrived at the scene, the suspect eventually put a gun to his own neck but law enforcement soon convinced him to drop the weapon. Payton surrendered and was taken into custody. According to CNN, the teen was charged with first-degree murder, but Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Craig Hannah noted the district attorney’s office will potentially bring additional charges. Payton has since pleaded not guilty.
At a press conference on Saturday, CNN reports that Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn stated that there were “certain pieces of evidence” that indicated that the crime was motivated by racism. Although he did not elaborate on the evidence, two federal law enforcement officials told the outlet that they were reviewing a hate-filled manifesto posted online which was allegedly written by someone claiming to be Payton confessing to the attack. CNN noted that the author says he bought ammo and began planning the attack down the minute back in January.
Per Framaglia, 11 out of the 13 victims were Black. Erie County Sheriff John C. Garcia said the shooting was a “straight up racially motivated hate crime from somebody outside of our community,” adding:
“This person was pure evil.”
Following the tragedy, President Joe Biden condemned the attack calling it a “hate-fueled domestic terrorism”:
“Tonight, we grieve for the families of ten people whose lives were senselessly taken and everyone who is suffering the physical and emotional wounds of this horrific shooting. We are grateful for the bravery of members of law enforcement and other first responders who took immediate action to try to protect and save lives. The First Lady and I are praying for the victims and their families, and hearts all across this country are with the people of Buffalo.”
The statement continued:
“We still need to learn more about the motivation for today’s shooting as law enforcement does its work, but we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation. Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America. Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul wrote in a statement posted on Twitter, saying:
“We must confront the threat that white supremacism poses to our society head-on. I have directed the @nyspolice Hate Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation of the heinous shooting in Buffalo today.”
Speaking with NPR, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called out the “hate speech” on social media:
“The hate speech that is allowed on social media, the indoctrination of people into ways and thinking of hate — we have to address that. That has to come to an end. Hate speech should not be considered free speech. We have to put limits on the ability for people to spread hate through the internet and through social media.”
It is truly horrific what happened here. Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by this unthinkable tragedy.
[Image via Fox 10 Phoenix/YouTube]